I am one of those unlucky knitters that has pain after knitting. My elbows hurt, my forearms hurt, my triceps hurt, my shoulders hurt, my neck hurts, it's just a mess. I have worked with physical therapists, sports massage therapists, chiropractic, and orthopedic doctors. I've heard many reasons for why I have pain and many remedies, but basically it boils down to two things:
1) poor posture while I knit (slouched on a sofa, watching Netflix, with my head tilted down) and
2) muscle overuse
First, the posture... I can't sit up straight and knit - I like to be comfortable. And I need to look down when I knit, so I can't change that. I DO put pillows under my elbows to help support my forearms, and I DO knit with circular needles to shift the weight of my projects to my lap.
Second, the muscle overuse... I do take mini 1-2 minute breaks while knitting to stretch. I move around, shake out my upper body, and stretch, stretch, stretch my fingers, arms, and shoulders. This helps greatly!
But I'm REALLY excited about a new all-natural product called Knitters Relief Balm! I’m one of those people who reads ingredient labels. I have sensitive skin and prefer natural products. This is chemical-free and made with arnica, magnesium, and a blend of healing essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, camphor, ginger, wintergreen and more. It has an immediate effect for reducing inflammation which causes pain. It increases circulation and relieves pain where ever you put it. And it's made in Austin, Texas and developed by a knitter (of course) and naturalist.
I love that it comes in a push-up tube, so I can rub it on while I'm knitting without getting any on my fingers. It doesn't stain your clothes. It smells nice. It's not messy. And the smaller 1 oz size fits nicely in my knitting bag. Plus, I'm not taking Advil/Motrin/Aleve/Tylenol for relief.
Before I started offering this on my website, I was using it. When my package arrived in the mail, I rubbed some on the usual place BEFORE I started knitting that night. Then I rubbed in a little extra before bedtime and for the first time in a long time, I slept through the night without waking up from pain.
To read more about Knitter's Relief Balm, see the complete list of ingredients, or to purchase some balm for yourself, please click here. I hope you LOVE it as much as I do!
The below button links directly to Knitters Relief Balm, and I earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. It does not affect your price. To read the full Affiliate Disclaimer, please click here.
Learn how to measure sleeves knitted with superwash yarns while you're knitting so they end up the exact length the pattern calls for after they've expanded during the wet blocking process.
View my latest YouTube video here.
Do you love duplicate stitch for weaving in ends? Then read on! This versatile technique serves at least three solid purposes for knitters.
1. It's a great way to weave in yarn tails on the wrong side of a project. It secures the tails, hides them neatly, and is a perfect choice when you don't have a seam to weave them into. But there's more...
2. It can save time when you make a mistake in stranded knitting. If you worked one stitch in a wrong color, or if you were off on an entire row and don't notice the mistake until much later, instead of ripping back you can use duplicate stitch in the correct color to fix the mistake. The application is the same as decorative duplicate stitch which is worked on the right side of the fabric that has been completed usually in stockinette stitch. On the right side of the fabric the needle/yarn follows the flow of the stitches in the fabric and lies directly on top of each stitch, effectively covering it with a different color.
3. The last application isn't about hiding or fixing, but it very visible and just for fun... The creative part of duplicate stitch is endless. "Write" your name, initial, or a message into the visible part of a garment, or in the hem. Use it to create images, motifs, or to add little flourishes to a finished project.
The direction in which you move across your knitting, and the direction in which you insert your needle determines how successful your duplicate stitch will be. Moving the wrong way creates gaps and twisted stitches.
How to form a Duplicate Stitch
1. Thread onto a tapestry needle a contrasting color yarn of the same or similar weight as the knitted yarn. This is most easily done over a background of plain stockinette stitch that has been blocked. Insert needle from back to front in the center hole at the bottom of the V-shaped stitch that is to be knitted over.
2. Insert the needle from right to left through both loops of the stitch directly above.
3. Insert needle from front to back into the same center hole at the bottom of the V-shaped stitch. Pull yarn slightly to take up any slack. You've successfully covered one stitch.
To move horizontally while duplicate stitching, insert needle from back to front in the center hole at the bottom of the V-shaped stitch that lies immediately to the left (or right, depending on which direction you’re moving) of the stitch you just duplicated. If you’re moving from right to left, after inserting needle through center hole, insert needle from right to left (same direction as you’re moving) through both loops of the stitch directly above. If you’re moving from the left to the right, insert needle from left to right through both loops of the stitch directly above, to avoid twisted stitches. Always insert needle through both loops at the top in the same direction that you're moving!
If you worked a row from right to left, and inserted needle from right to left through both loops of the stitch above, when you start a new row and work in another direction. For example, move up a row and work back across from left to right by inserting the needle from left to right through both loops across this row.
To move diagonally, after completing one stitch, insert needle from back to front in the center hole at the bottom of the V-shaped stitch that lies 1 row higher and 1 stitch to the left (or right) to form a diagonal line. To avoid twisting stitches, if your diagonal line slants from the right to the left and you’re working from the right to the left, then insert needle from right to left through both loops of the stitch directly above. You want to be mindful of the direction in which you’re stitching and keep the needle moving across the stitches in the same direction as the flow of stitches. Avoid going against the movement. This consistent movement prevents stitches from twisting.
When moving straight up and down, create a duplicate stitch the same way we did above (steps 1-3). Then bring the needle down one row and insert from back to front into the center hole of the next V-shaped stitch (if you are working from top to bottom). For this stitch, on one row down, insert needle from left to right through both loops of the stitch directly above, then insert needle from front to back into the same center hole that you came out of. Tug yarn gently. To move down a third row, insert needle from back to front of the center hole of the V-shaped stitch that lies directly below. Insert needle from right to left through both loops of the stitch directly above, then insert from front to back into the same center hold you came out of. When working vertically, by alternating left to right, then right to left through both loops, you can avoid twisting stitches.
Another way to avoid twisting the stitches is to make sure you weave in the yarn tails in the same direction as the flow of yarn. Do not back track and weave in the yarn tails over the part just worked. Continue weaving in the same direction as you knitted.
The cool thing about decorative duplicate stitch, is that you don't need a pattern. You can write over any part of your knitting in any color your want. Add a little heart to a plain sweater. Write a child's name in the folded under hem of sweater. Add a snowflake to a hat. Add a couple of rounds of Fair Isle motifs to stockinette mitts...the possibilities are endless!
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Mates, Kathryn. “Keys to Successful Duplicate Stitch.” Cast On Feb-Apr 2008: pp. 58-59.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.
The runway shows are giving us a look at the top designers' contributions for designs in knitwear fashion for the next year. What can you expect to see in the world of knitwear design? Follow the "2022 Sweater Trends" Pinterest board to see the fashions for next year. As designers unveil their shows, new sweater fashions are being added to this board so it's always growing with new designs! Currently showing, are Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear fashion shows and 2022 Resort fashion shows. Fall 2022 coming soon!
Some trends popping up in cut and sew fashions include shoulder pads so expect to see this trend making its way into knitwear soon.
Some dominate trends include lightweight yarn to create body-hugging, close-fitting sweaters. You'll also see lots of glossy, metallic, shiny, silky yarns. Unusual necklines are popping out from keyholes to strategic placement of eyelets around scooped front necks.
One of the biggest trends this year is color! From brights to clashing colors, color blocks to stranded, you'll see color that demands attention in so many designs. This isn't going to be a year of muted colors for sure!
I'm so honored to be working with The Knitting Guild Association to launch this new certification course designed for new knitwear designers. It is an amazingly comprehensive course where you work at your own pace, one-on-one with me to cover all aspects of knitwear design. It's been a year in development and I am happy to finally share it! I've talked with magazine editors, tech-editors, knitting instructors, Certified Master Knitters and over 20 designers when developing the course materials, to make sure all areas were covered. And the one message that I kept walking away with, after every encounter or interview, was that the professionals in this industry welcome new designers with open arms, and truly want to pass along their words of wisdom to help you become the best designer you can be.
Start right, learn knowledge fast, get certified, and launch your next career in knitwear design. For course details or to enroll, please visit TKGA's website at :
If you're working from a pattern with a basic crew neck, and you'll like something a little fancier, read on! If you've knitted collars before, but they haven't turned out the way you wished, read on! This article includes options for working a variety of collars to ensure a successful fit.
Types of Collars
There are 51 types of collars classified for garments in dressmaking, and all of them apply to knitwear!
Collars can seamlessly wrap entirely around the neck, like cowl type collars with lots of drapey fabric, the edges can open in the back, or more commonly open in the front. They can also overlap at the center.
It All Begins with the Neckline
Collars and necklines share a symbiotic relationship and the neckline must be planned properly in order to accommodate the desired collar. The below chart helps you pair the proper neckband with collar.
Options for Working Collars
Collars can lie flat, flop over, stand up, or wrap around the neck. They can be worked as an extension of the body, picked up and worked at the end, or knitted entirely on their own and sewed onto the finished neckline. Each method serves a different purpose and has advantages and drawbacks.
Collars worked as an extension of the body are the simplest as you just continue knitting from the body. These are most commonly found on sailors’ collars where you continue knitting each front half and the back 8-12” higher than the neckline then bind off. When the shoulders are sewn together the excess folds over and lies on the body like a blanket of extra fabric. You will also see this on shawl collars from deep V-neck cardigans . These are simple but do not provide stability. They have a tendency to open up the neckline and allow the garment to pull down the shoulders.
Collars that are picked up around a finished neckline create a flexible join at the body with little bulk. This is the most commonly-used technique. The front and back necklines are worked as you normally would by binding off and decreasing stitches until the shaping is finished. After the pieces are blocked, and shoulders joined, stitches are picked up around the neckline and the collar is worked from the base of the neckline out to the desired length, then all stitches are bound off.
Collars can also be knitted as a separate piece, then sewn on which adds stability and is good if you have a heavy or bulky collar since you can avoid struggling to flip and move the entire garment. The neckline however will be more rigid and the pieces will need to match exactly to prevent one from being stretched or gathering/bunching. You'll cast on the same number stitches that you normally would have picked up.
The collar stitch needs to have substance in order to hold the collar or lapel in place. Ribbing, Seed stitch, Moss stitch, Garter stitch, or another heavily textured pattern all allow the collar to lie flat. If you are using a stitch that tends to curl, you will need the support of a hem or facing. If you are working the collar as an extension of the knitting, you do not need to use the same stitch pattern. You can knit to a certain point, then change to a new stitch pattern for the portion that will become the collar. A cabled sweater with a Moss Stitch collar is gorgeous and easy to do. This is useful when working a vertical shawl collar on a cardigan for example.
The best fitting collars follow the shape of the neckline. It is for this reason that so many collars are worked by picking up stitches around the neckline. When you use a proper ratio for picking up stitches, the added collar will fit into the neck without stretching or bunching either of the fabrics. Another tip for a perfect fit, is to raise the back of the collar so it sits up a bit higher than the front. This keeps the collar from pulling and allows it to cover the neck effortlessly. You do this by working short rows along the beck neck at the base of the collar for 1-2” rise for short collars and up to 4” or more for large shawl collars. For fold-over collars, in order to achieve a good fit and adequate coverage, you will need to knit more than double the width desired. If you want a 3” collar that folds over and you knit 6”, you will lose some in the curved fold. This will prevent the folded portion from completely covering the join to the body so to completely cover the join, you’ll want to knit closer to 8”.
Shaping the Collar Points
Collar points should spread evenly without pulling. They should look natural when lying flat and should not be stiff with a tendency to curl. If you have picked up stitches along a neckline, work short rows for the back neck if desired, then increase stitches at the beginning and end of the rows until the collar length is reached. Then bind off. A good formula to use is to increase one stitch at the end of every 4th row. This allows the collar to lie flat and form a good shape. If you are knitting the collar separately then sewing it on, a bit more planning is required. You will need to calculate the number of stitches necessary for the collar at the neckline edge, then add stitches for the shaping at the tips, which are going to be decreased back out. If your collar overlaps at the front, figure on at least 2” for a tidy, narrow overlap and up to 8-9” for something more pronounced. If you have swatches, hold them on top of each other to simulate an overlap to get a good idea of the best overlap width for the weight of yarn and stitch pattern you’re using.
Shaping a Collar
Larger collars like shawl type collars or cowls, benefit from being widened as you knit. This allows the collar to gather, drape or lie properly. A very high collar, like a turtleneck, is the same circumference at the base of the neck and bind off, and has a tendency to stand up. If you want drape or folds, then widen it as you go. The best way to widen a collar and maintain the established stitch pattern is to switch to a larger needle. If you are working a shawl type collar, you will pick up stitches and work back and forth in rows to the desired length, then switch to a larger needle and work 1-2” to create fullness. On cowls, use circular needles and pick up stitches around the neckline, work to the desired height, change to a larger needle, work 1-2”, then change to a larger needle again and work another 1-2” and continue increasing until you’re ready to bind off.
The second method is to use increases evenly around. If you're using 2x2 Rib, you can increase one stitch evenly around then work in 2x3 Rib for an inch, then increase again and work in 2x4 Rib. It does not work with every stitch pattern as some will become distorted with increases. In the below collar, you’ll notice that the ribs are the same, but the increases were made into the purl stitches between each rib for a more subtle look.
A collar adds weight and this stress is felt at the neckline. The larger or heavier the collar the more stability you will need here. If you are working with a very large collar, pair it with a narrow neck width to prevent a sagging neckline. In order to slip the garment over the head easily, pair tight collars with wider neck widths. For an artistic effect, consider working the collar in a different color, different yarn or unusual stitch pattern. Collars don’t always need to open in the front. Try a back-opening collar or a side split collar. Instead of working completely around the neck at the base, start at the side and work back and forth in rows to create a split collar, then use buttons to let the wearer adjust the amount of coverage they want.
Do attach or work the collar after joining the shoulder seams.
Select reversible stitch patterns for collars that will be visible from each side.
Use heavier yarns to create thick, wide, fold over collars so they will maintain their shape.
For drapey collars, select a fine yarn in a fiber blend that provides good drape.
Attaching the Collar
Picking up stitches: When you pick up stitches with the right side facing, the ridge will be to the inside of the sweater. Be careful though that the collar does not open to reveal the inside of the neck. If it does, you will want to pick up stitches with WS facing so that the pick up edge is concealed under the collar.
Sewn on collar: If both sides will be seen, such as with a collar that can be worn standing up or folded over, it’s preferred to knit the collar separately, then use a whipstitch to sew it to the neckline so no seam shows.
Many patterns can be modified to change the type of collar without interfering with the basic sweater pattern or shaping. You have probably already done this without giving it too much thought. A turtleneck sweater can easily be changed to a crew neck by knitting to a shorter length. Branch out and try a side split neck, a cowl, or change a basic ribbed V-neck to a fold over shawl. Before working a crew neck, consider adding a peter pan collar. For an example of a modified V-neck with squared bottom and fold over shawl collar, see the Appalachian Pullover in this issue.
I hope you enjoy exploring the world of knitted collars and that these tips will help you create a finished garment that you can be proud of both artistically and technically.
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Koester, A.W. and Bryant, N.O. Fashion Terms and Styles for Women’s Garments. Corvalis, OR; Oregon State University Extension Service, 1991.
Newton, Deborah. Designing Knitwear. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press, 1992.
Newton, Deborah. Finishing School, Master Class for Knitters. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.
Paden, Shirley. Knitwear Design Workshop. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, LLC, 2009.
Tortora, Phyllis and Keiser, Sandra. The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Fashion 4th Ed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., 2014.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.
Irina Shaar sat down and we chatted about all things knitting in Episode 22 of her Fiberchats. If you haven't met Irina yet, she is a kind, gentle and wonderful knitter that enjoys bringing people together in the knitting industry. As her circle of knitting friends widens, the world of knitting becomes smaller. Her reach extends all over the globe and she closes the gap between knitters.
I was so nervous to tell you the truth! I'm much more comfortable knitting and designing in the quiet of my home with my dogs by my side, than I am coming on camera and talking. Speaking of dogs, I apologize in advance for the barking mid way through! I honestly thought they were downstairs with my husband until, in the middle of talking on air, I heard barking from under the table. So sorry!
To get in on our little chat about knitting, travel, becoming a master knitter, designs and so much more, click on the link below. To subscribe to Fiberchats (there are 21 episodes before me and LOTS more coming), please click here.
The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, by Ann Feitelson: Loveland, CO, Interweave Press, 1993, 183 pages, ISBN 1-883010-20-9, $34.95. Reviewed by Donna Estin.
I love knitting books that share history and techniques. Knitting books can be timeless and there is so much to learn and admire from books of any decade. When I purchased The Art of Fair Isle Knitting I hadn't thought much about the economics of the island of Fair Isle. But for the islanders at the early 1900's, having a marketable product that the mass population links exclusively to you was the key to financial stability. While no one knows the thought process behind the first Fair Isle design, Ann Feitelson begins her book with a historical journey examining the coalition of home based hand knitters and merchants who created a unique product that allowed Fair Isle and the rest of the Shetland Islands to flourish economically.
This book is divided into thirds; history, technique and patterns. The history is crucial for understanding the importance of a simple, repeating design, (i.e. speed + quantity = money). Appreciation of the coordinated efforts of a group of islanders that raised sheep, created a style, hand knitted garments, promoted their product and created a sustainable economy for decades gives depth to the art of Fair Isle. It leads you to knit with more knowledge and a deeper grasp of the art form you are continuing. You must understand a tradition wholly, in order to carry it on, otherwise it becomes diluted, cheapened and forgotten.
Enlightened by the history, the author leads you by the hand into the science of selecting colors with the goal of teaching you to design your own Fair Isle sweater. For the color-challenged knitter, this book gives sample color palettes in appealing combinations. And if the comprehensive color shading, technique and design are just too much to absorb the first time around, the rest of the book provides over twenty patterns ready to knit.
I thought I knew Fair Isle, but this book illuminated all that I didn’t know and challenged some of my preconceived notions. The book trained my eye to look upon a sweater and see not a random collection of colors, but a well-thought out scheme of complimentary colors shaded from light to dark with opposing contrasts between background and pattern. And what I thought had been originally designed to look artful, delicate and complex, was really designed to be simple, easy to memorize and knittable at great speeds to ensure commercial success.
Some of the looks are dated but in all fairness, many patterns are thirty years old. For me, the return to varied, undyed wools and neutral colors is the most appealing. Like a tide coming in and out, the popularity of this design has moved in and out of fashion. But like the weather, it is constant and always with us. I have a new appreciation for Fair Isle and a much deeper understanding. This book deserves to be read twice and holds answers to the how and whys of Fair Isle knitting that would benefit knitters embarking on this style.
Linen is my all time favorite fiber for warm weather. I love the way it feels against the skin and how I never get warm when wearing it. It takes dye uniquely so colors look interesting with a faded/sheen look to it. It's a strong fiber that lasts for decades. It's machine washable and you can put it in the dryer. It gets softer over time....... but here's the thing. It's not soft on day one.
When you open a hank of linen (or flax), it may feel stiff. When you start knitting, it can be rough on your hands. If you have sensitive skin, by the time you're finished a garment, your hands have had a workout. I'm a huge fan of knitting linen with small needles and taking on a looser than normal tension, and this helps, but the feel of the actual linen moving through your fingers isn't the best.
The good news is that you can soften your linen yarn easily before casting on. It will delay your knitting by a day, until the yarn dries, but the amount of time and energy on your part is minimal.
1. Fill a basin with tepid water.
2. Add 1 part baking soda with 2 parts white vinegar. I've used 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar.
3. Swirl the water until all is mixed. The baking soda dissolves quickly.
4. Open the hank of yarn but leave the ties in place. Lay the yarn on top of the water and let it be.
5. Once the yarn has sunk to the bottom of the sink, you know the fibers are saturated.
6. Drain the water and hang the yarn to dry overnight.
My latest article dives deep into Twisted Stitches (intentional ones). It explores how to form them properly and tips to making the finished fabric look its best. When I served on the review committee for the Knitting Guild Association, I reviewed so many submissions from knitters who had beautiful tension in all of their swatches until the Bavarian or Austrian Twisted Stitch swatch. Then everything seemed to foul up. This article explains what can go wrong and why, and provides suggestions for how to avoid some of the problems that can occur. You can find the article in Interweave Knits Summer 2021 magazine or you can read it online by clicking below.
Hello! I'm Donna Estin, knitwear designer, certified master knitter and instructor. I enjoy designing artistic knitwear that is comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.